President changes with the times

Michael Tortorich
Michael Tortorich is a reporter for The Gonzales Weekly Citizen. He can be reached at reporter1 @

Government agencies are not traditionally known for being technologically savvy, but it appears the times are changing with the new administration.

President Barack Obama is leading the way through the new world by sprucing up the White House’s Web site, With a new application, the president took questions from any Americans that may have something on their minds.

The experimental forum allowed anyone to post a question for the president. Posted questions were made public and voted on once in the online forum.

Thousands submitted questions and some 3.5 million people voted on the questions.

The president answered the most popular questions in a live streaming video on the site Thursday morning, making good on a campaign promise.

“When I was running for president I promised to open up the White House to the American people,” Obama said during the answer session.

Just as President Franklin Roosevelt conducted his fireside chats, the current president is engaging the American public in a similar way, but through modern technology.

“This isn’t about me, it’s about you,” Obama said. “It’s about the families whose letters I read every single day, and, for the American people, what’s going on is not a game.”

Naturally in these times of economic decline, Obama spent much of the time talking about the challenges Americans have been facing. This comes on the heels of a 10th straight week in which the number of people who are continuing to claim jobless benefits increased, according to the latest Labor Department figures. Meanwhile the Commerce Department reported the economy shrank to its worst showing in a quarter-century.

Many consumers are cutting back and dealing with financial turmoil across the nation, all feeding a vicious cycle that only deepens the recession.

Obama joked at one point about the most popular question from the online audience, which asked if he favored legalizing marijuana as a way to turn around the economy. Some, like Wired Magazine editor Nicholas Thompson, speculated if Obama would take the questions seriously or write them off as a classic case of Internet trolling.

“I don’t know what this says about the online audience,” the president remarked with a smile.

“The answer is no, I don’t think that is a good strategy to grow our economy,” he concluded.

Obama also focused on the healthcare situation, even relating personal stories about his mother’s death of ovarian cancer at age 53 and his daughter Sasha’s hospitalization with a medical issue.

When asked about coverage and insurance issues, the president said his goal is to move toward a universal healthcare system.

On the issue of education, Obama said more money and more reform needs to go toward schools.

He went on to point out the reason he was elected president was on the strength of the education he received at Columbia University and Harvard Law School, in large part through scholarships and sacrifice.

We’re in an age of YouTube, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter, to name just a few, and Obama is pulling all of the stops out when comes to the national conversation on the issues at hand.

Just as the private sector has been forced to sink or swim when it comes to new technology, government also faces the same future.

Taking steps to further utilize technology can only improve the function of our democracy.